Bearing Witness: The Gift of Sharing

It was a joy to spend a month with the writers of Memory Connections at Bethany Lutheran Church. These writers always had thoughtful and insightful feedback to give about the poems that inspired our writing exercises on any given week. We engaged with the simple act of paying attention, and the pieces they created speak to the beauty and emotionality inherent in the simple act of bearing witness: to your surroundings, to to your peers, and to yourself. I loved getting to know this group, and learning the many ways that we can define and explain who we are and where we are from beyond a simple label or a geographic region. From stunning lyrical images to delightful uses of humor, this group proved that connecting with one’s memory reaches beyond introspection, and into the gift of sharing our experiences with one another.

Sarah Matthes
Badgerdog Teaching Artist


Texas Flowers

Seeing the springtime Texas flowers
such as bluebonnets, Mexican hats,
Indian paintbrush, and daisies
refreshes my feelings and emotions
toward what beauty is,
refreshes my soul, and strengthens
my resolve with nature.




I have mixed emotions regarding roses.
They have various colors and smells.
My first reaction is to grab them.

However, every time I try to grab them,
the thorns remind me just how unattractive they can be.

I love their appearance,
but I hate their feelings.

Joseph T. Colarusso



I remember working with my dad, planting tulips
while the first snow of the year was coming down.

It was a cold and miserable time,
but in the spring, we were weeding the beds
and the tulips were in full bloom.
It was beautiful, and such a difference
from when we planted them.




Picture a small town with beautiful parks, and they were busy all year round performing the myriad plays which Shakespeare wrote. I owned an 1880’s Bed and Breakfast just a few minutes’ walk from town and was an “innkeeper.” I had visitors from all over the country come to visit and I prepared the food. Ashland had at its center a lovely park with hiking trails and magnificent flowers.

W. Elaine Martens


Spring, Texas

Spring was quiet and full of beautiful flowers, shrubs, trees, birds, animals, happy children, well-kept homes, good schools, evergreen lawns and trees, children playing in yards or sometimes streets, buses into the city of Houston, trips to the Opera and plays and music groups, taking our children to the park to see their friends, teacher friends getting together, talking about students.



Bareilly, India

I could walk from my house to my dad’s office. The clerks in the front of the office would give me balloons. It took about fifteen minutes to walk to his office from our house. In the winter it would get cold enough to have a fire in the fireplace. The garden has a lawn surrounded by flowers. I learned to ride my bike. There were about ten officers and I played with their kids.




Any living flower is an amazing thing.
Actually, they’re all alike (shape and size vary)
but the basic components—sticks,
twigs, leaves, dirt, fresh stuff too, all added—
piles of old brown things making crinkling
noises as you step across the yard.

The best of music is no better—
they’re the bookends of joy and sorrow.



Pleasure in Plants & Place

The lively group of Memory Connections writers at Christ Lutheran Church in Georgetown took pleasure in rhyme and surprise in poems, shared their weekly joys and struggles with candor and humor, and discussed the need for more writing from and about people living with early memory loss. They wrote vividly about the natural world, the seasons, and how certain flowers serve as portals to remember their loved ones and childhoods: Crocuses heralding spring and chilly lilies offering hope that fall in central Texas is coming! We bonded over a shared love of routines as moorings in our days, and discussed the beauty of writing done in private, to reflect, to document, and to process feelings and thoughts. I’m grateful to have spent these weeks with this talented and generous group of writers; I hope you enjoy their witty, vulnerable, and vivid work as much as I have.

Mary Terrier
Badgerdog Teaching Artist


Those Weeks

Those weeks would be like a different world for us, the cousins from Phoenix, and me from El Paso where it was so hot you could fry eggs on the sidewalk. My aunt and uncle lived on a piece of land with cacti all up and down the mountains, and down in the valley an orchard of apple, pear, peach, and cherry trees.

Pat Joyce



Auntie’s Garden

My father’s eldest sister could coax any species of flower to bloom and show—a green thumb was a mere description of her talent—whether she was planting, nurturing, or snipping—the arrangements were amazing—small as in Cecil Brunner’s—blazing yellow daffodils—or even willow branches from the creek—all were unique works of art.
My Auntie was a treasured person. Love, joy, tender hugs—She always shared her garden with me!

Helen Haynes


How Do You Make the Flowers?

The house was tucked away on a large farm. The girl was about five or six years-old. She ran alone, running uphill, and down again. The girl ran into the pasture. She loved being alone and free.
In the early fall her mother started working the planting, and the girl watched and asked, “How do you make the flowers?” The mother gave the child a packet of seeds and told her what to do. The girl put the seeds and watered each. The pansies were beautiful…and the girl was very happy.



Llano River

A very good place to take a vacation. If you like outdoor camping, you would enjoy the Llano River. I guess you could call this a cowboy city. Junction, Texas.

Clemencia G. Castillo


Harvest Time

Harvest your roses while you may
Your time is always flying
For your flowers that smile today
Tomorrow will be dying



Natchitoches, Louisiana

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town located on Cane River, streets are made of brick, and the city overlooks Cane River. Part of the Civil War was in Nachitoches. Old beautiful homes overlook the river on one side and the other side is lined with houses.



Austin, Texas

Boom Town
The University of Texas school
Many good restaurants
Lots of museums
Lots of art



Somerset, KY

The downtown area has many older brick buildings. The traffic enters the area from four different directions and progresses right around in a circle until you come to the street where you want to exit. Then you progress onto the interstate where all the new boat shops, hospital, Walmart, and the lumberyard are located. This new section of town is where most people go daily for their shopping. Now, the old downtown area holds the banks, real estate, and office buildings. This is not really so different from many towns in the middle of America that have continued to exist. Many smaller places surrounding the larger cities have lost their grocery stories, post offices, etc. Only a few service stations remain.

Patricia Kellett



Embracing & Enjoying Life

The Cedar Park writers are an amazing group of upbeat, optimistic people who made me feel welcome and special each time I visited their group. Laughter filled the room as they shared stories of bluebonnet fields, childhood homes, first dates, and family gatherings. These writers inspired me to fully embrace the moment and enjoy life.

Gayleen Rabakukk
Badgerdog Teaching Artist



Flowers are like life, you start with seeds that must be planted, watered, fertilized and trained.

As a child you are born a baby requiring feeding, washing, nurturing and changing.

Then you grow and start to talk, walk, and feed yourself, and learn to develop in the world around you.

The beautiful difference being a human versus a flower is that once you grow to maturity, you have the opportunity to develop into what color and beauty you want to be.



People I Most Admire

  • My wife, Bea (53 years, next month)
  • My mother (passed away in 2011)
  • My mother-in-law (passed away in 2016)
  • My dad (passed away in 1976
  • My daughter, Liza
  • My son-in-law
  • Presidents of the U.S.A.
    • George Washington
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Donald Trump

Manny Chavez



A good Sunday for me would be to wake up
to a morning rain,

followed by a clearing sky,
and then a bright, sunny day.

To have my two sons and three grandkids
over to run around with my dog.

Firing up the grill to cook burgers and to sit
around with the whole family in the
backyard and drink a cold beer.

Billy G.



I have always loved Texas.
The bluebonnets are the flowers.
The bluebonnets have a cat claw hidden in the flower.
The flowers are a lot of beautiful.
The state of Texas plants flowers close to the highways.
The bluebonnet is the state flower.
Most flowers have a great smell.

Dale L. Martin


Happiest Childhood Moment

My happiest moment was coming home from the hospital when I had my tonsils removed. I would speak more clearly and had no more pain.
Even at the young age of six years old, I could think clearly about my life goals:

  1. To express my fears and joys, hopes and dreams for the future
  2. To be more happy in my grandfather Watson’s and grandmother’s (Unger – maiden name) home
  3. To see that home both as a blessing and a curse, — a release from pain, way to face the future

Going to church was a healing place for me at that young age. This is a parable of life – both releasing my pains and opening up my future. I know God loved me and affirmed by parents and grandparents.

Mel Swoyer


Dear Mom,

I missed having you around when I was a child, but I was truly grateful that you were around for holidays and after Mary Ann got married. You had me come to live with you in New York, even though you were mostly away working.
I learned a lot about being there for my children, so that I saw to it that I was home when they got out of school and made sure that they went to college.
Like you, I experienced two marriages. The first was to help my friend not have to go into the military and be sent to Korea. I already had five brothers that were serving as well as a brother-in-law. I was blessed with a beautiful, caring, loving daughter from that experience and though that marriage didn’t last, my next one did until my husband passed. Before that occurred, we had a daughter and three sons.

Susan S.


Dear Past Self,

Hello—this is a wakeup call.
There are things you love to do and can do well—
time is running faster and faster—stop wasting it!
Write—you know how much you love it—it need not
be brilliant—just honest—and based in reality or—
as much reality as can be discerned at this point—
all of which, and I repeat time is racing—
my brain is in the race
hooked the way of looking at the now and future possibilities—
good or not.
Think of all those books with blank pages.
Think of all the pastels, pencils pointing, clay not being used, the minutes not filled with artwork—the wonderful handling of each.
Wake up, Ms. Fool!

S. Betts


My Hometown

Liberty Hill is a small town, north of Cedar Park. It’s growing though. A highway runs through it. One restaurant is there called Delilah’s. Good place to eat. Great pies and vegetables. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. One highway, Highway 29, runs east and west through the town. Service stations and a few churches line the way in. Of course, there are numerous gas stations there.

Chris Turk


Workshop Spotlight: Shalom Austin

This past fall Badgerdog partnered with the Shalom Austin Jewish Community for a six-part workshop series. Led by teaching artist Celia Bell, this workshop explored the self in relationship to the world. How do you find peace in the face of tragedy? How can you evoke narratives that moves across time? Workshop participant Laraine Lasdon explores these pertinent questions and more in her poems below.

Katelin Kelly
Badgerdog Programs Coordinator



There are times when my breath is short,
I pump the bellows of my lungs, frantically
adding air to the heated sponge and calling
on the teachings of Master Nicklaus for elucidation
as to what would happen if my journey up the mountain
towards the dark cave of my destination,
would drown my soul or create a drought so
dry that the very vitality of my life—dust unto dust,
would wither and every lobe so perfect a host
for anger, love and peace,
then calm those very passions
would deny my heart its beat.

My purpose is strong, my temperament firm.
I feel a guardian protecting me from harm.
Although my soul’s defenses are weak and puny
surrounded by madness and massacres of Jews.
Yehudi, the word ricochets around the world,
reminding us we are human, Yehudi. Yehudi.
Jew means thankful.
But still I must reach the cave pushing uphill
through scrub and scabbed bush as if
forty days and forty nights must be endured,
by Pharaoh’s orders, through roiling sun,
alone, for where will help come from?

I feel an onslaught—the depths of despair
bereft for six million plus eleven to add to the roster
of people who need
our care need our grief for centuries of prejudice
with no justice, redemption, or peace.
But what about the single heart, my heart,
whose shadowed
soul craves the inky black cave.
To hang upside down
in nature’s sleep, not seeing the
funerals, pine boxes, and small bodies in white shrouds
or hearing the scrape of the shovel lift earthly mud
to lovingly begin the physical end
and begin a life of memory and pain.

I feel a slim cry, vibrating, ascending, at a pitch so high
it can only be heard by Adonai and I.
I find the God of the Caves who hears sacred prayers
from supplicants and applicants and bearers
of good luck mixed with tears.
Part bat, part human Camazotz rules his caves,
where I long to be safe in the belly of the earth,
letting go of these fears, preferring rebirth.
Bat hearts beating offering hope, dispelling dread,
emerging renewed each night, no myth of the dead.

I wish I was a bat with a millionfold community
to blot out the day, then, in total harmony,
as the day ends and all, as one,
swoop out to greet the setting sun.

Laraine Lasdon




In London, John Ruskin roamed the 19th century streets,
hearing the clatter of horses’ hooves and the new machines.
Woodsmoke hovered in the wintry air, heavy and warm,
in the halls of Society and Parliaments’ Mall.
Appalled at the loss of beauty, art, and design,
and the disappearance of families of artisans, potters’ wood kilns
engravers of chimes, weavers and their sons,
and husbands with weighty bundles of rags
to be soaked and sifted and hung out to dry,
creating paper wove fine as linen for brotherhoods of scribes.

Ruskin wrote of the rot wrought by factories,
master carpenters become cogs, artists distressed,
the very truth of beauty disassembled by progress.

What did Ruskin mean when he wrote of his utopia as a place where men thrive?
Did he imagine a place to live or should it exist in our minds?
Is it where we craft art with our God-given hands,
or where industrial machine-tooled goods are forever banned?

A young William Morris, inspired by Ruskin’s love of the maker,
held gatherings and lectures on the grand art of Nature.
He traveled from Manchester and Lancaster, to Dover and Bath,
finding friendships and fellowships with artists who thought like he.
Edward Burne- Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who with their own hands,
pen and ink, paint and tools, created figures, plants, birds, and fruit
to circle and wandle, elegant and lithe, and drew
lasses with long tresses, a bow and silk dress,
to decorate the floral bordered pages of Chaucer and Troy,
fonts for the 53 books of the Kelmscott Press.

The golden gardens of domesticity, every thought and idea,
sailed over the sea taking root in the New World of America,
a wide land without disquiet or fear of industry,
in the monumental task to build nation and community.
In plain planked houses row upon row,
families gather for dinner at assembly line tables,
covered with cloths bright with yellow tailed swallows,
watched by wallpaper angels with white wings, halos and tallow.

Yet, there is art here, even as machines stencil nature’s design.
Braided trellises of vines stamped on millions of bolts and bales of fabric
packed high on railcars spined out to each suburb.
Sewing machines hum creating drapes with fine blooms,
the ghosts of Ruskin and Morris follow us from room to room.
The comforts of parlors past still survive
and the joy of design yet infuses our lives.

Like Ruskin and Morris, I long for connections
glowing like those perfect golden chrysanthemums on
gaily papered walls, where pewtered ornament graced every chair,
when murmurs, ideas, thoughts, and sharings
were like the hush of the thrush that stops singing for a moment,
to pluck strawberries ripe and sweet as deep conversation.
We may have lost the woodsmoke swirling from parlor fires,
warm and sparking from logs cut by hand,
wielding sharpened axe, and stacked all autumn with love.
And we may have lost coal stoves with curled legs,
cast iron pots of bubbling stews replaced by our touch on a digital oven,
our comfortable old teapot that called with a hiss
are now fine electric teapots that beep and click.

The wisp of woodsmoke has become a symbol.
The warmth of family, friends, present and remote,
has become for me, a hearth and home.
We are allowed a moment of realization:
in our own era of polarization,
when we reach out to each other it is the warmth of our hands,
the love in our souls, the family we craft for ourselves,
that curls around us like tendrils of wood smoke.

Laraine Lasdon





What Is It?

Meet high-schooler and poet, Anya Van Arnam! Anya participated in our Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp at Headwaters School this summer. Her poem, featured below, offers a meditation on bird species classification and interrogates the social structures of our world. Another poem by Anya, titled “I Am Proud to Call Her My Nana,” will be published in the forthcoming edition of Emerge: Youth Voices in Ink. She will read from the anthology at the Badgerdog Young Authors Reading on October 27!

What Is It?


it’s a spinning circle
we love to hate
we hate to love
it’s a dove’s cry
upon misty morns
in white valley landscapes
it’s a pigeon’s coo

upon no morning
for no morning exists
in a city that has no seasons

the dove and the pigeon
both are birds
both have wings
both can fly

but one perches on the highest oak
one pecks for scraps
one lives long
in its white feathered glory
one is slain in the gutter

the dove and the pigeon
both are birds
both have wings
both can fly

but one flies no more
this one once free?
this one now captured
seen by (what we call a God above)
as ugly
as dumb
the pigeon is not these school house
barn house
white house
that we love to hate
we hate to love

both can coo
both can squawk
both can be quiet
or run amok
and cause terror in trampling feet
yet the feet still walk in a circle

becoming a buzzing background
while the doves
argue on skyscraper mountains
about where to dispose
(not disclose!)
the pigeon carcasses

now the skyscrapers
have black foundations
painted over in titanium white
our eyes are painted blind
our ears muffled
by the buzzing
there is no quiet
only white bees
drained of honey

Anya Van Arnam

Inventing New Landscapes

Meet Gabriella, one of the amazing teens to attend our Teen Writing Lab at the Austin Public Library this summer. Gabriella’s short story was inspired by a lesson that explored the idea of place and invited teens to imagine their own cities, consider the rules that keep them running, and describe what makes each city unique. Seeking inspiration, Gabriella says she glanced outside the library windows and was momentarily blinded by the sun reflecting off a car window. This is when her idea for the city of Nomalli was born!

The City That Casts No Shadow

If you were to visit Nomalli, you would at once be astounded by the light. No brightness could ever compare to the glowing white city. You must wear special glasses or else fry your eyes to a crisp.

Everywhere you look, the tall, blazing buildings’ graceful yet forbearing gaze look down upon you, as if judging your every move. Strange floating discs pass by, transporting the fluorescent citizens about their business. The people are friendly once spoken to, but stare right through you, as if gazing at some faraway point of interest.

When walking in the streets, all is quiet except for the conversations of nearby people and high-pitched squeaking sounds that can only be heard when listening closely.

The road leading away from the shadowless city fades in brightness until street lamps must again be used. Night never comes in the city, only a slight dimming of the light. If only the beauty of Nomalli could be enjoyed by all, for the people of the city are blind.

Gabriella Erb
Grade 8, Austin Waldorf School



Memory Connections: Tracing Back to Our Roots

The sense of humor displayed among the Memory Connections writers at Bethany Lutheran Church delighted me each time I walked in the room. “Hey, I know you!” one gentleman exclaimed. “Now, what’s your name?” and he would laugh at his joke. Nature poems and memories of mouth-watering foods they enjoyed as children flowed onto the pages. One question, “Where are you from?” followed by the reading of “Child of Summer” by Lynn Worley, launched much discussion about not only the cities, states, and countries in which we were born, but who played Monopoly on Friday nights or slept on a screened-in porch. The writers shared that they were from “homemade soup and stuffed cabbage,” as well as “I am from a guitar given to me after tears and sorrow so I could play it all away.” I am humbled by the honesty and laughter that greeted me each time I joined this amazingly gifted writing group. I know you will enjoy their work as much as I did.

Terri Schexnayder
Teaching Artist

List Poem


I’m from homemade soup and stuffed cabbage.
I’m from “be home by dark.”
I’m from Slovak ancestors.
I’m from my antique collection.
I’m from my maternal grandmother.
I’m from Youngstown, Ohio.

Jane Baran

My Sister


I’ve always felt close to my sister. We live miles apart now, but we try to connect at least one or two times a week. She is twenty years older than I am, so I always went to her for advice or a recipe for something our Mom cooked. We are both alone now—her husband died and I am divorced—so it would be great to live with her. If we were closer in distance, we probably would. We both have four children and always catch up on them and our grandchildren. I really miss her (my brothers, too) and so I hope I get to visit them in the near future.

Jane Baran

I’m From


I’m from tandoori chicken.
I’m from “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
I’m from Indian ancestors, speaking Bengali as my language, and hearing stories from my mom.
I’m from Scrabble and Rummy.
I’m from my dad.
I’m from Bareilly, India, where my dad worked for forty years before retiring.

Mala Bhattacharya



Grandkids keep me young. I get to see my younger ones on a regular basis, and my youngest grandson when he takes the bus from school on Tuesdays. We have a snack together. He enjoys my ice tea, especially since it’s sweetened, and shares part of my sandwich. We play games like Connect Four, reading, and drawing. On a nice day, he likes playing with kids from the neighborhood—soccer, chase, riding their bikes. It’s the day of the week I really look forward to.

Mala Bhattacharya

Stories from My Pen


Between my finger and thumb, I hold this pen. I can see things I still remember as a child. My father and mother were great parents, and there were lots of siblings—three daughters and five brothers. We were loved by our parents. I remember times when my father worked long hours, and my mom took good care of us. There were so many of us, and we all knew what they did for us. To this day, I have not forgotten what they lovingly did.

We had great times on trips we took to Ohio to visit my grandparents. I remember the girls helped Mom clean the house, and the boys worked with Dad on the cars. I remember lots of things.

Sherril Cole

I’m From


I’m from fish sticks.
I’m from “In or out!”
I’m from Irish ancestors.
I’m from Mom and Dad, plus many brothers and sisters.
I’m more like my mother.
I’m from Indiana.

Sherril Cole

Flowers in Season


It is Spring!
Purple flowers are in bloom …
while the hint of pink is peeking through.
The bridge is covered with all kinds of vegetation—
most of all, this reminds me of walking with my husband
when the temperature is calling us!


My Dad


My Dad was always working and always walking through the park to get to his office. When his office closed, my cousin Bill found a position in the bank where my Dad was. What I loved about my Dad is that he once turned down an adding machine—his adding machine was his mind! I loved doing math, which was my major in high school and college. This was my Dad’s influence. Dad loved to write poetry from his own thoughts. My prayer is that I will be my Dad!


I’m From


I’m from ice cream on a cold night.
I’m from “Where are the A’s on the report card?”
I’m from Irish and English ancestors.
I’m from my wedding ring since fifty-three years ago.
I’m from my older sister Dorothy, since we look alike.
I’m from Mt. Vernon and Decatur, Illinois.

Helen Hartness 

My Sunday Dinner Date


On a very cold day in December 1958, I invited a close friend, Robert, to my home for Sunday dinner. I was kind of nervous when he said, “Great!” He surprised me when he arrived carrying flowers. But he had brought them for my mother! We had a wonderful time and shared our Sunday lunches for many years. My family loved him. However, he joined the Army and died in the line of duty. His memory remains.

Helen Hartness 

My Rosary


One of the things I carry with me is my rosary. It’s important to me because it’s a symbol of my faith and it carries memories that go back many, many years. I was raised in the year of the Great Depression of the 1900s. Times were uncertain at best. As a member of a large Catholic family with six children, I was sent to a Catholic girls’ school. My teachers were all nuns and each day, we attended church to “say the rosary.”

This time in church gave me a feeling of serenity, that someone or something was watching out for me. A feeling I did not get from my family because of the scarcity of money, jobs, etc. My parents were loving and good people, but both of them had to work, plus run a small farm to provide food for us.


I’m From


I’m from homemade bread and butter made in an old-fashioned churn,
from cream skimmed from the top of a milk pail and from Wisconsin.
I’m from any song by Bing Crosby in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
I’m from German, Polish, and Irish ancestors, and beer drinking.
I’m from a family of book readers and book lovers!
I’m from a large family, and especially fond of two sisters who were kind to me.
I’m from West Allis, Wisconsin.
I lived in Seattle, Milwaukee, Chicago, Pennsylvania, California, and Austin and Houston, Texas.


My Grandmother


My father’s mother and I are probably more alike than not. We are both short. She did nothing besides chain smoke and eat and take the kids to perform—you know, dance and sing with percussion. She must have talked a lot to herself and everyone else. I was always quiet, I think, playing piano and dancing and singing to myself.

I really don’t know much about Grandmammy. She must have inspired everyone around her. Let’s face it. She was the talented one who allowed everyone else to entertain her.

Jennifer Martinec

I’m From


I’m from perch on Fridays and goo on Wednesdays.
I’m from playing on Friday nights.
I’m from German-Czech ancestors.
I’m from Pink Floyd songs and visits to Europe.
I’m from Grandmammy, my father’s mother.
I’m from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, Mineral Wells and Dime Box, Texas, New York City, and Heidelberg and Schwetzingen, Germany

Jennifer Martinec

My Bible


My Bible is important to me because I believe it is the number one book of wisdom. I have several Bibles, and I refer to different ones at different times, depending on the need of the moment. They are of several shapes and sizes. Two are quite large at 8” X 10” and two will fit in my purse easily. I carry a small one to church on Sunday, and use it while the minister is teaching from a specific Bible passage. He teaches about that Scripture passage during the Sunday morning sermon. Then, he expounds on the wisdom and appreciation of the Bible. Following the sermon, we are dismissed to gather into small groups, where the Bible Scriptures are taught with discussion and questions.

Gloria Shelton

The Spectacular Sunrise


Standing inside my daughter and son-in-law’s house, I can go to any room and view the spectacular sunrise. It’s exhilarating to breathe in the hill country air and smell the fragrant flowers. The reddish, purple clouds cast a hue on the hills and flowers that bring even more vibrant colors.

Gloria Shelton

I’m From


I’m from fried foods and homemade food, pastries, and desserts.
I’m from my parents listening to old music.
I’m from Dutch and German ancestors.
I’m from my wedding ring and my family.
I’m from, and look like, my dad and Uncle James.
I’m from Norfolk, Nebraska.


Love for Pizza


I love the smell of fresh pizza.
I love the fresh, doughy crust.
I love the feel of a slice of pizza in my hand.
I love the taste of fresh pizza with toppings I like—
pepperoni, Canadian bacon, olives, tomato sauce—
and, don’t forget the peppers!

I love the lingering taste in my mouth.
I love a great pizza!
(Did I mention I love pizza?)


Lobster Tails


About fifty-six years ago, when I was taking my girlfriend (now my wife) out, the car stopped. No, it wasn’t that I was out of gas! A guy came along and helped us in the middle of the night. He took us back to his restaurant where he treated us to lobster tails and steak. It wasn’t a poor community, but you certainly didn’t buy lobster tails.

My wife Marilyn and I were married for fifty-five years on May 25, 2018, and are taking a three-day trip to San Antonio. When I reflect back to that time so long ago in Madison, Wisconsin, when a stranger helped us, I know it was a very different time, where you didn’t worry if your car broke down. There would be someone who would always stop and help you.

Brad Bradley 

A Big Red Apple


There once was a big red apple hanging in a tree. I could see it from my back room window. I knew the tree was tall, and I was so small. I would reach out to the red apple before I had to go to bed. Then, one night, I fell asleep and had a nightmare! I awoke in the morning and looked out the window.

The apple was gone. My dream was dashed!

I went to breakfast. There on my plate was the big red apple. What a surprise my mom gave me again. What a mom!


I’m From


I’m from candy and sugar and cavities sometimes.
I’m from all over the place.
I’m from a guitar given to me after tears and sorrow,
so I could play it all away.
I am from my younger sister Jo.
I’m from Houston, Texas.

Starr D. Hawkins

Tiny Things of Nature


My home is on Dorilla Road in Austin. Yesterday, I walked and turned and turned. I love tiny things, and as I was walking, I saw these miniature flowers, yellow and white, the cutest things! I showed them to my husband, who said, “Starr, that’s illegal to pick those!” When I see them, I remember picking them as a little girl.

April is my favorite month—my sister Jo’s birthday. She died of heart disease when she was only forty-four, and all she ever wanted was children. She had five wonderful children.

Starr D. Hawkins 

Memory Connections: A Magical, Delicate Balance

The Memory Connections writers at Hope Lutheran Church contemplated big themes in their work together: the immensity of time and space, the beauty of the wilderness, and the magic of music and art. And yet we kept coming back to those small details that make stories—and life—both challenging and endlessly fascinating. We examined the tiny petals that make up wildflowers, and the small ornaments you’d find in a curio cabinet. We looked at photographs to pull visual details into our stories, and we listened to the subtle blend of instruments in works by Mozart and Rossini. As creatures walking the planet, we may be small in comparison to the vastness of the universe, but there is beauty in being small. There is wonder and humor in vulnerability. And there is magic in seeing both the smallest flower and the farthest star. The Memory Connections writers at Hope Lutheran reminded me of this delicate balance, and how it makes for powerful storytelling.
Claire Campbell 
Badgerdog Teaching Artist



Red roses for my
My wife loves
The yellow roses.
Our daughter loves the white roses.
When I look back,
There are many other flowers.


Study of a Bloom 


A gorgeous shade of purple with a background of green and clustered leaves: the beauty of which is transformed by the freshness of springtime, before the heat of August overwhelms the countryside. Each petal is a delicate array of colors.

Flowers like these capture the essence of life and remind us of the fragility of the busy outside world, often overwhelmed by the changing breezes or transformed by new rainfall. Water can surge unexpectedly in the shadows of rocks that shelter this bloom.

The wild flowers cultivated along the roadways in springtime first appear with the showers of April and May: I hope her sisters and brothers are nearby and can shelter their beauty.


Childhood Morning 


I peek one eye open and can see it is early morning in my home. I smile, hug my covers, and look for my house shoes. Then I look out the window again and feel the slow rising of the sun, and the stars quietly disappear in the sky.

“This is just the beginning!” I say to myself. “What wonders are ahead of us!” I get myself dressed quickly in a clean shirt and my new blue jeans.

Tip-toeing ever-so-quietly past my sleeping parents, I head for the back door.

Suddenly: ”K-i-g-i-g-i-g!” The door slams and shakes the house, and everyone, including my parents, are in the hall wondering what in the world is happening!

I look up, shivering but smiling. “Oops! I didn’t mean to wake anyone…” Mother frowns and Dad points to my bed with a strict expression on his face. I don’t think I will ever try this again!


My Perfect Morning


There will be birds chirping outside my windows, which look out on a yard full of flowers and fresh green trees. The smell of the flowers floats up to my table by the window. It is springtime.

I’ve got a fresh coffee cake on the table with plenty of raisins and nuts on top of it. The pot of dark roast coffee is there, as well as fruit salad with apples chopped up, oranges, and strawberries.

I hear music—Mozart is calling to me, telling me to get with the program. All is as it should be.

Pat Keen

An Ordinary Object 


The tiny Santa Clause with the cute black reading glasses reminds us that Christmas is on the way, even though it isn’t May as yet.

His outstretched arms are ready to hold all the small boys and gals who sit on his lap. Santa’s red lips are ready to break into a wide smile as he begins his ho, ho, ho!

Santa is tiny, but he has the presence of a big-bellied generous man with a big hearty laugh. He wants to be more than a big yard balloon. He wants big-boy pants made for a small frame!




My object is used as an ornament, a decoration.
It can be hung on a Christmas tree.
It could be used in decoupage—I can see it there with pictures of flowers and other plants.
If it was hung on a Christmas tree, I could see my old cat batting at it.
It looks like it was made from parts of toothpicks.
Please tell me they were new ones, okay?
The red accent makes an intricate design.




I see only two small blooms—two flowers, two tiny blooms, really—from a common shrub. I am surprised and saddened to behold so little of what is ordinarily a large shrub. Usually, there is more to see in a yard.

Looking more closely, I notice a line of small, unopened—I don’t know the word for then—buds or clusters: just enough here to identify and make me recall this common, blooming shrub.

I see for the first time the structure, the life, of the shrub familiar to those of us who live in this area—this verdant, temperate Austin.


Paying Attention to a Flower


This is my flower. It has come into my life, and I am focusing on it. It is a small flower, not large, like an iris or a lily. It sits demurely in water in a paper cup, waiting for me to observe it. It is purple and has many little blossoms that grow out of a stalk. I counted forty-five blossoms—a lot of blooms for such a small flower.

What do I notice about my flower? I notice its long green stem. I notice it is soft and feminine. Paying attention to a flower is not something I do every day. Usually, I walk right past them and don’t notice them. But this one has my attention. What is so special about this flower that I should notice it? It was given to me by a teacher. She probably cut it, got a paper cup, and put water in it to nourish the flower. And she gave it to me to write about. Now it is a part of my day!


We Are

–A collective poem by the Memory Connections writers at Hope Lutheran


We are millipedes
We are insignificant creatures
We are old [now wait a minute!]
We laugh at our own mental ability
Our fragility
We are elderly, free as kids playing in the sand
We are led, enriched, educated
We can lie on our backs at night and ponder the immensity of the universe
We want more time, and to see where we can go
As free-flowing spirits.

Memory Connections: Tracing Our Origins

“Hi, I’m Terri Schexnayder and I am from Houston, Texas! Where are you from?” This greeting at the beginning of our Memory Connections workshop at YMCA North launched a wonderful discussion about where writers were from—oftentimes expressed as the place where they were born or the many places where they lived. Then we read “Child of Summer” by Lynn Worley, and the room filled with chatter about wringer washers, wearing hand-me-downs and flour sack dresses, and who had “fish sticks every Friday night.” They began to understand that we are “from” so many people, places, and things. One writer even exclaimed after discussing the poem, “This helps us share our memories!”

The power of writing, with its cathartic, playful, and memory-rich possibilities, became evident, time and time again, when I had the honor of being with these amazing authors. Enjoy their stories, poetry, and learning more about where and what “they are from.”

Terri Schexnayder
Teaching Artist

I’m From


I’m from homemade ice cream from the big freezer.
I’m from the baby ducklings and worried mama hen.
I’m from grandmother’s house and a stocking filled with oranges and other goodies.
I’m from feeding lambs and one baby goat.
I’m from yellow hair and a bonnet to keep the sunburns from my freckled face.

Ruth Crowson

Homemade Ice Cream


We all lived together in two houses—my granddaddy, grandmother, an aunt and uncle, my parents, and me. There were fresh peaches we all liked, and homemade ice cream created in a big container by this one and that one. Kids took turns sitting on the freezer while an uncle turned the crank. Grandmother made the ice cream mixture and my mother cut the peaches. Then, all were packed in ice. The child snuck a slight taste of salt. It was party time, you know! All ages came to eat the homemade peach ice cream.

Ruth Crowson

I’m From


I’m from bland Irish cooking.
I’m from the high school football trophy.
I’m from Saturday soccer games.
I’m from “Shut the door behind you! Were you raised in a barn?”
I’m from my dad and mom, and all Irish grandparents.
I’m from Boston, Massachusetts.

Billy Garry

My Memorable Object


Somewhere in the dark recesses of my attic, I still have a plaque from my Little League days. It’s inscribed with my initials and the initials, “M.H.L.L.” I used to tell the lie that those initials stood for “Most Hits.” But in reality, it’s a participation trophy, which everyone received, and the “M.H.L.L.” stood for “Mission Hill Little League.” It’s not a necessity, but I won’t throw that trophy away.

Billy Garry

I Am From


I am from

peach cobbler shared with cousins who couldn’t
cut it in a straight line –

a Gil McDougal fielder’s mitt
so old it was made in America –

family vacation trips by car
lubricated by reading from A.A. Milne’s
children’s book—

“Chuckie won’t play ball with me” and
“Chuck, John, Robbie, SKIPPER!”
when my mother wanted to scold the dog –

a long line of “furr-iners”
generations who were in a place,
but not “of” its culture –

My home place on a tidal creek that emptied into a river
that, two miles later, emptied into the Chesapeake Bay.
We used to joke that some of our mosquitoes would land at
Langley Field (ten miles away by air) and refuel without being detected.

J. “Jim” Hadden, Jr.

I’m From


I’m from garden-grown tomatoes, eggs from our own hens, and hand-kneaded biscuits.
I’m from a self-designed and hand-sewn prom dress with store-bought lace.
I’m from “You’ll catch your death!”
I’m from the Taylor birthday dinner on the Sunday nearest PawPaw’s birthday—
and, others who had birthdays near his, which included me,
so I got to eat at the first table.
I’m from a mother who read every book she could and played school with me.
Because of her, I started school in the second grade.
I’m from the black land farmland of Collin County, Texas.

Ouita Haltom



As far back as I can remember, I have loved peanut butter. Maybe it was because my mother had what she called “a steady diet” of it when growing up (and growing to detest it!). Whatever the reason, she left it off the grocery list more often than not, causing me to crave it. That must have brought about a conflict for her—the most inexpensive sandwich making in the middle of the “Great Depression.”

And so I looked forward to going to school and taking my lunch with peanut butter sandwiches. As far as I knew, there was no alternative. To Mother, however, here was an opportunity to introduce to me the myriad of other things that could be made into a sandwich.

Ouita Haltom

Beef and Chicken Slaw Taco


Something crunchy for our “lunchy”
is waiting for you on your plate.
So, squeeze the lime on “taco” divine
and you’ll find it’s just fine—
and cost you just only three dimes.


Chocolate Brownie Pumpkin Cake


Chocolate topped with a pumpkin layer is a “yummy, yummy fit for your honey”
supersize dessert to enjoy,
so come for a chat over a chocolate delight
It’s for sure we won’t have any worries about fights.


Capturing the Moment


As I get older each year, I find myself checking the inside of our family car to make sure I have a ballpoint pen (or moderate-size fountain pen) and a small tablet to write on. It may be that I want to write down the name of a popular song being sung on the radio or the name of the person singing it. It will be handy to have these things written down if I get to the music store to purchase a CD. It’s nice to have background music as backup or to sing along with the correct pitches. You can also learn the words to the music!

When I shop for a CD at a book store or wherever, I have to take the time to locate it first, so I call the store to see if they have the music I want. If they do, I ask them to put my name on it. I might pick it up that afternoon for a program with the elementary students the next month. The CD is a necessity, a small item to obtain for the program with fourth graders. The music is already familiar to them, but they will now memorize the words to it. All of this is an important part of a musical program at school—it’s almost the end of the semester! A song set to a familiar melody and perfect for ending the school year.


I’m From


I’m from one vegetable, one baked potato, and one piece of meat.
I’m from a bicycle—two wheels, chain-driven.
I’m from “Be back in time for dinner and don’t be late!”
I’m from a low-priced summer apartment at the shore with a wooden ice chest,
no refrigerator, sand on the floor brought in by kids coming directly from the beach.

I’m from my father, his quiet, his sense of humor, a regular worker, reliable.
He was a talented amateur mechanic and handyman—I am not like him in this regard.
I never had his talent as a mechanic, but
I am like him in the sense that I love to take naps!


Spaghetti Dinners


When I was growing up as a young boy, I remember the spaghetti that my mom would make. Once, while it was cooking on our kitchen stove, my whole family could smell the aroma of it wafting through the house. When the spaghetti was ready, my mom would set the table, and we would sit down around it in the nook my dad built for us. It was just like sitting down in the booths you might see in a restaurant. I will always remember those meals we had together.


I’m From


I’m from chicken and French fries.
I’m from the 1963 Chevrolet Impala SS coupe.
I’m from a family who spent Christmas Eve watching old movies.
I’m from ancestors Jim and Effie Barrett.
I’m from Fort Smith, Arkansas.

Edward Stephens

Thoughts of Nature


Brisk winds
Bright sky
Ducks flying by
Turning leaves
Full moons
Warm sun
Groundhogs popping up out of the ground
Snow falling
Boats in water
Looking into a meadow from above
Newborn calves
Fresh air

Edward Stephens

I’m From


I’m from fried chicken and green beans on Saturday night.
I’m from military dirt and mud, chigger bites and bugs.
I’m from vacations to Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.
I’m from “Turn off the light and shut the door! You’re letting the warm air out.”
I’m from Uncle George, who slept with his feet outside the covers and smoked cigars.
I’m from Germantown, Tennessee, at the end of the good old days.

Chris Turk

What I Carry


The one thing I try to always carry is a medallion that has a cross on one side and a Bible verse on the reserve side. It reads, “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.” It is a very important reminder of who my Boss really is, and a reminder of who the person is that has kept me alive all this time. He has given me life, two strong boys, a great wife, and a truly blessed life. A whole lot more than I deserve.

Chris Turk

Sandy’s Candies


In my home state of Pennsylvania, I used to have a business called Sandy’s Candies with my friend Barb Abrams. We made all kinds of candy—at the top of the list were peanut butter cups. We also made chocolate-covered pretzels, nut rolls, cream cheese mints, and lollipops. We went to craft fairs, where we sold our candy. Every year, there was a big Christmas farm show in Harrisburg. Since I moved to Texas, my friend carries the candy business on her own.


Memory Connections: Mirrors to the Past

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” I asked the writers of the Memory Connections class at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church to tell me about where and what they were from, to interpret paintings by Claude Monet, and to share those things they love and the things that make the world wonderful for them. In doing so, it was as if I were asking them to look into the mirror of the past and share their “reflections.” What they created with these works of art, however, are most definitely glimpses of their souls.

Tracey Lander-Garrett
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Another Day

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “The Road in Vetheuil in Winter”


Greenery, snow slowly melts
Those who go outside are in garb
With the spring coming
Mountain rivers are coming down
Cold water in the streams
Families will start their daily chores.

Sigrid Clift

I Am From


I am from a loving family with significant ties to Waco, Texas, Baptist religion, Baylor University, and conservative (Republican) politics. I was very privileged with financial support, educational support, and opportunities not given to many.

All these wonderful things came with strings attached. I was expected to behave according to strict rules and to accept religious doctrines without question.

After many journeys, I left the Baptist Church and aligned with the Democratic party. My parents were not pleased, but loved me anyway.

Bottom line: Love trumps politics and creeds. I try to follow this in my daily life. (“Sermonette for the day.”) I am my mother’s son.

Walter Boyd Spencer

To Set Sail or Not

—Inspired by Claude Monet’s painting “Entretat Rough Sea”


I love the water. I love to sail!
And I love sailing in rough seas.
I think the boatmen are contemplating the rough sea
to decide whether to set sail or not. I would say no
the practiced, adult side of me would explain all the dangers
of going out into an obviously angry storm. However,
the romantic sailor in me would say, “Go for it!”
The adventure is worth the risk!
You will be so proud if you make it back to shore!
And think of the stories you will tell your children!
And the lesson you could teach them!
And the ones you should have taught them!
… If you get to see them again!

Carol Yacono

How I Enjoy Gardening


How I enjoy gardening! Each spring, I plant my favorite seeds. These will germinate and grow into beautiful vegetables. In only a few months, there will be fresh vegetables growing in the bed behind our garage.

I will use my red wheelbarrow to start the process. First, I will till the soil in my bed, surrounded by a border of interesting pieces of limestone. Then I will add the rich moisture of humus and sprinkle with water daily.

Lastly, I plant the seeds for celery, lettuce, tomatoes. This bed is behind our garage and very easy to reach. What I now do is watch daily, water judiciously. Now I see sprouts. How lovely.

Susan Warren

Ode to a Banana


I love the soft banana skin protecting
its tasty fruited and succulent fare.
it’s the taste of nourishment of a golden fruit
on picnics on the beach or hillsides at sundown.
I enjoy the fruit most often on road trips
in a basket filled with picnic fruits and a light wine
plus the gentle companionship of my wife
and friends on a nearby hillside.

Dan Odom

I Am From


I am from Ironton, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Waco, Texas; Middletown, Ohio; and Austin, Texas. I’m from a radio tuned to WLW Cincinnati. I am from clothes on the line and coal bins. I am from the two-story house at the top of a long hill, a large oak tree in the front yard and many friends and playmates. I am from a home that often smelled of wonderful food. I am from the screened in porch. I’m from a performing family, one professional (father), the rest of us rank amateurs. I’m from Ann, my sister. I’m from family foods as they were prepared in the South. I’m from “Only honesty is the correct way to live.” I’m from a Southern father and a Yankee mother. From kale and fried chicken. I’m from my father, a radio performer, who wrote a script each day for tomorrow’s show.

Lee Bland

I Am From


I am from Houston, where I lived the longest, at least fifty years. Before that, I was from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and before that Chicago, and before that Waukegan, Illinois.

I’m from being born in a home with a basement.

Waukegan was a memorable place to be from. My 65th high school reunion is coming up.

Many friends are contacting me. It’s fun to go back in time to relive one’s youth. Ice trucks, coal deliveries, tarring the streets, riding streetcars, then buses.

I’m from smelling lilacs and eating apples and plums direct from the trees. I’m from playing hopscotch, Red Rovers, Russia, jumping rope. The coloring of maple trees, the bark of birch trees, snow with sleds and skates. I’m from igloos made in the backyard and burying treasure.

Betty Oertel

Wonderful World


The things that make the world wonderful for me are my three children, my seven grandchildren, and my ten siblings and their families and my friends. We are a large Irish family so the shades of green and heather fill the days, from childhood to adulthood to life as a 75-year-old today. There has always been laughter and love shared over meals and numerous celebrations of life and death. Showing love in all places, being there for one another, helping, supporting, loving no matter what. Sharing daily ups and downs of a life lived with love, patience, and kindness. Always asking, “What can I do for you?” and then doing for them with a smile on my lips and a glint in my eye.

Patricia Kilbane